WRITTEN BY: OMEGA NGEMA
Founder of a leading project management company DevRani Consult, Ugeshree Thakurpersad has proven that women entrepreneurs can be commanders of industry just as well as their male counterparts.
After eight years of successfully implementing socio-economic development projects across all provinces and being a prominent economic development consultant in the Renewable Energy Industry, the company has cemented itself as a remarkable benchmark for the industry.
DevRani Consult focuses on economic development, CSI, enterprise and supplier development, procurement strategies, socio-economic development, ownership structuring and skills development programmes. The company is also Proudly South African, 100% Black Women Owned, and a Level 1 (135%) contributor towards B-BBEE recognition.
Ugeshree co-founded her first economic development consultancy after realising her passion for transformation while working as the Head of the Wind Programme at Exxaro Resources in 2009 where she led the development of a number of wind projects, the most notable being the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm. The project has been documented in the book, Just Imagine.
“At the time, large businesses, communities and government had a major disparity and it was difficult to develop megaprojects in rural communities. I recognised the opportunity to bridge that gap by translating strategy into tangible economic projects and developing meaningful stakeholder relations which resulted in the bold step to leave a successful corporate career,” said Ugeshree.
While the consultancy enjoyed many successes, after 5 years, Ugeshree realised it was at the expense of her health and family life and as a mover and shaker in the consulting sector went into a short hiatus to regroup. During the period she had also suffered the loss of her father, in 2016, a time she described as a turning point in her life.
“After five years of consulting, I realised that I did not have balance in my life and that I needed to spend more quality time with my husband and children. I also faced multiple challenges on all fronts and felt that in order for me to be grounded and build myself again, I need to “completely un-plug” and take some time off,” said Ugeshree.
However, it was not long before her passion came calling again and after a short sabbatical Ugeshree was approached with an exciting opportunity to lead the Enterprise Development strategy for the Gauteng Premiers’ office under the Tshepo1Million jobs project. “This project resonated with me and afforded me the opportunity to start a new consultancy and re-invent myself and business model using the learnings and experience gained,” said Ugeshree.
For aspiring entrepreneurs Ugeshree advises to follow one’s passion, research thoroughly and seek the help of those who have gained success.
“When I initially started my consultancy, I did not do my homework first, I just dived in which was my error. The consultancy was hugely successful, however, we did not do enough to empower and upskill the staff. As a result, I was the project lead on too many projects and reached a stage that I could not divide myself any further. I was also doing the finances, business development, marketing, HR etc. and it resulted in burnout on more than one occasion,” said Ugeshree.
“It is crucial that as a business grows, so too must the team grow, and this does not necessarily imply in numbers. It is also especially important to choose your business partners well, if applicable. It has been said that business partnering is more onerous than a marriage contract, so the values, work acumen, professionalism and clarity of roles and responsibilities as well the alignment between business partners is important,” she said.
These days, the industry leader who says she would like to be remembered for being kind and honest wants to impact people’s lives for the better, and to change the face of socio-economic development by implementing tangible, measurable and sustainable projects. Ugeshree has managed to find a balance between business and family, whom she says are her greatest source of inspiration. She was also recently appointed as the Chairperson of the S’ya Phanda Trust, a Pepkor supplier development initiative.
“My son, Shivek and husband, Sachin, have grown to become my moral compass and keep me grounded. My husband is also a great sound board and advises me on all major decision making. He has also gained a lot of leadership acumen over the years which I have direct access to. My daughter, Mandhira aged 10, has an amazing energy and creative mind and reminds me to keep it fun. I also have a group of phenomenal women that I get to share my life with who remain a continuous source of wisdom, love and great fun,” said Ugeshree.